With three world titles and two Olympic bronze medals to his name, Masashi Ebinuma has already packed more success, controversy and upset into his career than most athletes will experience in a lifetime.
The 27-year-old Japanese has been one of the standouts in the -66kg category since winning gold at the 2011 World Championships.
For this year’s worlds in Budapest he steps up to the 73kg division, hoping to avenge the disappointment of Rio 2016.
Ebinuma went to Rio as a three-time world champion and one of the favorites for gold, but he lost in the semifinal to South Korea’s An Baul Deep and had to settle for a second bronze to add to the medal he won at London 2012.
“Four years ago I was young and I managed to win the bronze,” Ebinuma reflected afterwards. “This time it feels a little different. But I had excellent preparation, and even though it is frustrating, I’m glad I kept fighting right until the end of the bronze-medal match.”
In 2012, Ebinuma was involved in one of the most controversial moments in Olympic judo history.
After a hard-fought quarterfinal against another South Korean, Cho Jun-ho, his opponent was awarded the victory, much to the derision of the 10,000-strong capacity crowd.
The reaction was so strong the decision was referred to the reviewing commission, who overturned the result and sent Ebinuma through to the semifinals where he lost to eventual gold medalist Lasha Shavdatuashvili. He beat Poland’s Pawel Zagrodnik in the bronze-medal match.
A year later Ebinuma won his second world title in Rio, winning all six of his bouts by ippon, and he added a third world crown in Russia in 2014.
Ebinuma has experienced the highs and lows in an already glittering career and begins a new chapter with a step up in weight in Budapest.